How to Effectively “Manage Up”


Whether you are first starting a job or are experienced, one thing managers repeatedly ask for is an employee who “takes initiative.” However, definitive initiative may mean different things to different managers. One aspect of taking initiative to managers is an employee who “manages up.” What exactly is managing up, and how can you successfully pull it off?

“Managing up,” in other words, means to help your boss manage you. Putting yourself in the shoes of your boss, she or he has to manage work from their own managers and also has to manage you. That’s a lot of priorities to juggle. Helping your boss manage you means that you make their job easier. Rather than requiring your boss to check on you to make sure that you are doing your job, make it so that you can make their work easier.

Here are some tips for managing up:

Schedule regular check-in meetings with your boss

If this is not already in-place, find a time when you and your boss check in on each other’s progress, goals and priorities. Effective communication is an essential part of managing up.

Learn what you boss values and understand their needs

Each boss has a different set of priorities, and aligning yourself with similar priorities is one way that you can help take work off their plate.

Understand how your role fits into the overall goals of the company

Many first-time employees make the mistake of only seeing what is required to finish only the work they have, without understanding how their work fits in the overall picture and value-generation of the company. If you understand your piece in the puzzle, you can make suggestions that will improve the whole.

Track where you spend your time and report to your boss

In your workplace, your time is one of your company’s resources. Sometimes you may be working on a project for an exorbitant amount of time, but it may not be something that actually helps. Or, there may be a lot of time spent on menial tasks that you’d like to outsource.

Anticipate needs and make suggestions for improvement

If you see areas where you find that you can be improved, or that will improve business processes, try suggesting it after you’ve thought it through and the potential pros and cons.

If you make a mistake, admit to it and make an active effort to rectify it

Do not let your boss “find out” what went wrong if you make a mistake, but instead admit to the mistake openly and make a plan for how you will change the situation in the future. This allows them to entrust work to you without worrying.

Overall, managing up is about effective communication, actions that are properly in line with goals, and work that will benefit yourself, your boss and the company.